ArtBeat: The Shedding of Skin, Neighbours, Colin Davidson and an NI Opera pub quiz...

The Shedding of Skin continues at the Lyric Theatre until Sunday. Picture by Johnny Frazer.
Jane Hardy

Notes and musings from the arts scene as it continues to emerge from the pandemic, by Jane Hardy

EMERGING from the restrictions of the plague years, you might have expected the arts to provide fun, distraction, an escape from reality.

Oddly, and maybe this is the cultural point, some of these plays have been quite uplifting and emphasised survival. The Shedding of Skin, revived this week at the Lyric, is a fascinating piece of witness theatre imagining the Furies as a collective memory of crimes against women. It's strong meat but not Netflix.

Although we see a wartime rape, hear of beatings and worse, Vittoria Cafolla's script and Paula McFetridge's direction almost observe the niceties of Greek tragedy. The chorus, as promised, unbridles "the stories of the unheard", a kind of mantra.

You could see parallels with Ukraine, yet the universality of women's suffering is the point. Great acting from Vicky Allen, Shannen McNeice, Louise Mathews and Catrionia McFeely who conjure Aristotle's pity and fear.

So farewell then, Neighbours. The residents of Ramsay Street will be uttering their last banalities, Paul Robinson delivering his final evil twitch of the eyebrow and former stars (possibly not Guy Pearce) doing swansongs on August 1. Falling ratings among its key audience - i.e. the UK - are to blame.

Jason Donovan, Scott of fond memory, has gone on to greatness, via Stock Aitken Waterman and Lloyd Webber musicals. He and father Terence, who played Doug Willis for a while, are of Irish descent.

Surprising celebrities have graced the suburban set, including the great Clive James. The critic with a penchant for naff TV returned to the country of his birth to play a grumpy postie cameo in 1996. When he arrived in London in the 60s, Brits regarded Australia as nothing but outback. "Later on, this outback acquired an opera house and a row of brick bungalows, one of which was occupied by Kylie Minogue."

Heading to Banbridge for my first visit to the F.E. McWilliam Gallery to view Colin Davidson's retrospective, I was blown away by the beauty and art. McWilliam, from Banbridge, was an internationally renowned sculptor with modernist tendencies. His best known work is Woman in a Bomb Blast, depicting an anonymous victim of the Troubles yet his output encompassed the 'bean' period and fragmented ted figures. A guide told me on a 2009 visit the Prince was shown a semi-nude figure, walked away, then returned laughing. The TV cameras loyally cut away.

Northern Ireland Opera are organising a pub quiz called La Triviata (ouch) on June 26 at the New Orpheus Bar (above the Harp Bar, Hill Street) from 4-6pm. Live entertainment from host Harry Lambert and soprano Mary McCabe, who will be singing some of Verdi's finest arias. Not just music questions, and you can win a night and breakfast at Grand Central and afternoon tea at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast.

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